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Creature Comforts: Gratitude

2020’s been a rough year. In the spirit of Thanksgiving I decided to remind myself just some of the things that make me smile, that leave me with a warm, contented feeling — things for which I feel blessed and truly grateful.

My home:

Our house is 102 years old and in need of many repairs. It’s drafty, smells like musty basement and hound dogs. Our decorating style can only be described these days as “early, eclectic haunted house” (cobwebs and dust being an important motif.) Our dishwasher’s been broken for three months, awaiting a warranty replacement. We are on our second set of blinds for the front windows, thanks to the dogs’ need to treat them roughly while diligently guarding our property. Our couch has seen better days, but it’s big and comfortable, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a warm beverage, a good book, and a cuddle with a furry friend (or seven). Our house is cluttered, noisy, stained and tarnished, but it’s cozy and unpretentious, and welcoming.

My career:

I work long hours, and yet, I’m expected to work more hours than are humanly possible. I’ve missed many family dinners, been called away from outings, come in on days off, missed recitals and concerts and many of my kids’ sporting events. I’ve been late for almost every parent meeting I’ve ever had to attend.

My patients cannot tell me WHAT’S wrong, only that something IS wrong. I have to rely on their human caretakers to relate key information (often presented higgledy-piggledy) and piece together sometimes disparate bits of data to restore their health, or ease their discomforts. When I cannot do either, I beat myself up, even when it was clear there was nothing I could do.

All of that being said, this job is an adventure. Every day is guaranteed to be different from the last. It’s dirty, and noisy, and smelly, and unglamorous, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. It’s about fixing problems, solving puzzles, and helping relieve suffering and angst (both animal and human).

And while it’s not all hugging kittens and puppies, that is most definitely one of the best perks of my job. I am thankful, too, that I have been privileged to be surrounded by kind, talented, creative thinkers, with healthy senses of humor — they have made working in this field fun and gratifying.

My family:

My husband, business partner, fellow veterinarian, father to our children, goofy, Dungeons and Dragons loving, Bigfoot believing, frisbee-throwing, super-nerd — I am truly grateful for his patience, intelligent conversation, quick wit, unfailing generosity, and attention to detail when it really counts. Oh, sure, he can be a real pain in the patootie, especially when he’s hungry or tired of shopping (after 15 minutes at the outlets), but he makes up for it when he takes out the garbage, washes the dishes, or vacuums without being asked.

Our son and daughter, both teenagers, are good students and good people with healthy senses of humor. They have healthy attitudes toward life; I could not ask for two better kids.

I’m grateful for my parents, and that they decided to delay their annual trip to Florida this year. Even though we have to use great caution with social distancing, it’s been nice to have them around, especially during these uncertain times. Plus, my mom feeds us dinner, like, once a week, and supplies us with bountiful, delicious baked goods (she makes a mean sourdough bread), which is a bonus.

I’m thankful for all of our pets, from the cold, scaly ones to the warm, furry ones. They each make me smile in their own way.

When Tom, the tortoise, eats a squishy tomato larger than his own head, I can’t help but chuckle. He is a rabidly enthusiastic vegetarian.

Jenny, the turtle, and her fish are splashy as ever.

Kevin (10) is still annoying, but he does a great job keeping bad people away (or so he says.)

Marty, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (5) is very good at looking stately and keeping my lap warm.

Virgil, the cat (15) lowers my blood pressure, with just the sound of his purring.

Ivy, our big mixed breed dog (5) is the only dog I’ve ever had that truly enjoys hugs. Enough said.

Our chihuahua/dachshund Phyllis (5 months) is sweetly sleeping on my lap as I write this piece. This funny, sunny little puppy has become my almost constant companion — she is a joy.

I’m grateful to have had yet another year with our dear Walter (14), and with Miriam (13), our two oldest dachshunds. After we diagnosed each with a different form of aggressive cancer, it is a happy miracle that they are still with us, now several years later.

From my family to yours: Happy Thanksgiving.

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at life@sungazette.com.

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